In order to see how customers navigate their way around the modern shopping labyrinth, we asked online consumers in the US and UK how they research and purchase products. We wanted to identify the preferred channels and devices for both research and purchase and analyse behavioural changes when consumers interacted with different types of brands including travel providers, banks, retailers, and insurance providers

Digital-savvy consumers aren’t necessarily the youngest

Some of the findings make for surprising reading. Who would have predicted, for example, that middle age adults are the most active tablet users? The weekly use of the most popular tablet device, the iPad, is the highest in the 35 to 44 year old age group in both the US (15%) and the UK (21%).

Equally unexpected is the revelation that, it’s members of the younger age groups that are more likely to venture offline and actually visit a travel agent to research a travel purchase.

The research also confirmed a strong trend in the diversified way consumers use each of their devices for specific tasks. Across every vertical, smartphones are used for research far more than to make purchases. Smartphone usage when researching a retail purchase is particularly high, standing at almost a quarter of respondents in both countries (24% in UK and 22% in US). In contrast, financial services products are less likely to be researched on a mobile device, as only 9% of US and 7% of UK adults use their smartphone in this way.

There are also interesting findings in terms of how consumers want to access information on their smartphones and tablets. In the UK, across every vertical, mobile sites are used more than mobile apps while the use of both mobile sites and apps is highest in retail.  In the US, respondents also prefer using a mobile site rather than a mobile app in every instance, except when researching a retail purchase.

Know your audience and put them first

Consumers know the best way to get what they want and how to manipulate what is out there to suit their purposes and needs. For marketers, this means it’s only when you have a clear understanding of the behaviour of your audience that you can begin to make informed decisions about the channels and devices you should be focusing on – and optimising for.

This doesn’t simply mean deciding whether to prioritise apps or mobile sites; it’s also important to identify the types of activities that your audience might want to carry out.

The need for a thorough understanding of your audience and how they work is nothing new, but this intelligent segmentation still represents a challenge for many brands. When choosing a digital strategy to adopt, an understanding of the audience (or audiences) you are trying to reach is a fundamental first step. The results of the survey paint a comprehensive picture of how consumers act in a multichannel world.

Now it is up to brands to take these preferences on board and act on them.